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This review is from: The Story of Decipherment: From Egyptian Hieroglyphs to Maya Script: From Egyptian Hieroglyphics to Maya Script (Paperback)
I'd have to agree with the previous reviews of this excellent book. Quite simply this is the best single volume coverage of a major intellectual activity: the decipherment of ancient languages. This is a demanding read, and I would imagine that you would need some basic grasp of phonetics and the principles of grammar in order to get the most from it. Pope is quite an intellectual writer, and for a popular history, this is produced to a high level: I strongly recommend you follow his excellent notes very carefully, and also pay attention to his glossary, which is very instructive. There's also an up-to-date bibliography with many suggestions for taking your study of ancient languages further.
The book is divided into three main sections: firstly and perhaps not surprisingly, focuses on the Egyptian hieroglyphics. I perhaps learnt most from the account of the translation of cuneiform writing, which forms the central part of the book: I really enjoyed the accounts of Henry Rawlinson, and would like to read more about him. The final section of the book is of course, directed to the Aegean and Anatolian scripts, including Linear B. I had read a little about Michael Ventris before, but enjoyed the crisp and clear coverage given by Pope in his section. There is also a fascinating postscript chapter on Mayan glyphs. Can't really imagine how this book could be improved, and I'm not surprised that been imprinted for nearly 40 years. The only note of criticism would be the rather too patrician tone that Pope adopts on occasion, but I'm prepared to forgive him this as this is an academically secure and appropriately serious account. An excellent read, and this really informed my reading of Michael Wood's In Search of the Trojan War, one of my favourite popular history books.